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Ovi Symposium; forty-fifth Meeting Ovi Symposium; forty-fifth Meeting
by Prof. Ernesto Paolozzi
2015-02-13 23:15:17
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Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Ms Abigail George, Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Paolozzi, Paparella and Mr. Rywalt
Forty-fifth Meeting: 12 February 2015

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Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

abigailAbigail George is an African activist for human rights, a feminist, writer and poet. She has received writing grants from the National Arts Council, Centre for the Book, and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council). She is not purely devoted to poetry but to pursuing writing fulltime. She has written two volumes of poetry, and her latest book is titled Winter in Johannesburg. Storytelling for her has always been a phenomenal way of communicating and making a connection with other people. All About My Mother (a collection of short stories) was published by Ovi magazine in July 2012.

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

rywaltEdwin Rywalt is a computer specialist living in Pennsylvania with his family. He is a talented and accomplished pianist with a college education from Columbia University and a life---long scholarly interest in the nexus between science, technology, and the liberal arts. Beginning in May 2014 he will be offering pro bono services to the Ovi Symposium with typo correction editing and other useful suggestions aiming at improving the overall format of the twice a month section of Ovi magazine. Perhaps in the future, if his commitments allow it, he may decide to join the Symposium’s ongoing dialogue.

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Subtheme of session 45: Is Multiculturalism still Possible and Desirable?

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Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Nietzsche, Strauss, Momigliano, Berlin, Bossi, Vattimo, Vico, Heidegger, Gadamer, Plato, Descartes, Shakespeare, Paolozzi, Croce, Tagliacozzo, Dilthey, Hegel, Bergson, James, Rorty, Gramsci, Wellek, De Sanctis, Collingwood, White, Plato, Aristotle, Cassirer, Bergin, Fish, Whitman, Hemingway, Noah, Esther, Elijah, Daniel, Swaggart, Freud, Lessing, Oliver, Wolf, Sontag, Path, Monroe, Joel, Donkin, Keats, Moses, Jesus, Aaron, Miriam, Biko, Hani, Malema, Rilke.

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Table of Contents for the 45th Session of the Ovi Symposium (12 February 2015)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “Multiculturalism vis a vis Relativism, Absolutism, Pluralism and other Assorted Confusions.”  A presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella.

Section 2: “Historicism, Multiculturalism and Relativism in Croce’s Philosophy” A revisiting of the introduction to Ernesto Paolozzi’s book: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom.

Section 3: “An Essay on Multiculturalism: A Coming of Age Story.” A Presentation by Abigail George.

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Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

In this 45th meeting of the Ovi symposium we revisit another rather controversial issue currently being debated in the EU and elsewhere: multiculturalism.  It is a global issue which will surely affect the future of humankind in as much as it impinges on the immigration policies of all five continents in an era of mass migrations and major cultural and political dislocations. It will determine if we, pilgrims on this earth of ours, will be able to live in peace and tolerance of each others’ cultures and traditions. Indeed, the very survival of the human species is in play.

In the first section of this meeting the concept of multiculturalism, lamentably declared dead by Germany’s Angela Merkel, is carefully re-examined and elucidated vis a vis relativism, absolutism, pluralism and other assorted and related confusions. The philosopher Gianni Vattimo’s political-philosophical stance within the EU Parliament is also examined as a sterling example that it may be possible and desirable to envision a tolerant multicultural world. Nevertheless the crux of this problematic lies in the fact that the terms we shall briefly examine remain confused and in need of a clarification.

In the second section we revisit the poetic philosophies of Vico and Croce via the introduction to Ernesto Paolozzi’s Ovi e-book’s proposing that those two great philosophers had anticipated by centuries the ambiguities and confusions of the post-modern world and  speculating on how they remain an essential consideration for any  solution to an ongoing post-modern metaphysical-intellectual crisis.

In the third section we are presented with an essay on multiculturalism, plus two creative writing additions by Abigail George, True to form, she offers a poetic rendition of the historical consciousness via the stream of consciousness with recollections from the past, while situating herself in the present reality and envisioning a future one. The historical consciousness is mysterious and in some way rooted in the Freudian subconscious and the Junghian collective unconscious, but the attentive reader will have noticed by now that a holistic Vichian philosophical approach to an harmonious synthesis between the rational and the poetic, the philosophical and the literary, is what keeps our symposium meetings interesting and intriguing, at least we’d like to think so.

The two realms of liberal arts naturally belong together; for indeed, without the poetic and the imaginative, the mind starves and the rational dries up. On the other hand, without the rational, the poetic becomes mere sterile reverie and mythology seeking a purpose and a meaning; the point of it all. The point of it all may indeed be outside of the Platonic cave.  In any case, the philosophical and the literary are complementary to each other and without such a complementarity they are not complete and as effective as they could be. In effect with this issue we are suggesting to those who have a propensity toward the philosophical and those who have a propensity toward the literary to consider the other side of the coin. What they will discover may surprise them.   

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1
Multiculturalism vis a vis  Relativism, Absolutism, Pluralism
and other Related Confusions
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

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“There are no facts only interpretations and this itself is an interpretation.”
                                               --Friedrich Nietzsche

One of the most frequent, most brazen attacks on modern thought is the one carried on by assorted Straussian classicists and absolutists of many stripes and persuasions. The stratagem seems to be this: show that modern and post-modern thought leads to relativism, then that relativism in turn leads to pluralism and multi-culturalism. Thereupon attack multiculturalism and pluralism as a cancer on the body politic and the very unity of Western Civilization, never mind that quite often these attacks are redolent of the xenophobia and rabid nationalism, even fascism of old.

In philosophy we have the famous case of Strauss and Momigliano branding Isaiah Berlin a shameless relativist and stubbornly persisting in the charge even when Berlin defended himself and denied it in the New York Review of Books. In Politics we have nowadays none other than Angela Merkel, one of the foremost leaders in the EU, encouraging the demise of the multiculturalist experiment. She doesn’t exactly advocate a return to good old nationalism or fascism, but the message come through loud and clear nonetheless: you need to conform and assimilate or your life will become uncomfortable in the EU. In effect this myopic visionless political leader has transformed the issue of multiculturalism in one of clash of civilizations; a dangerous explosive issue if there ever was one.

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Without going into the more political and social aspects of this issue I’d like, more modestly, to show here that it is a logical and philosophical fallacy to equate pluralism with relativism; that in fact the arguments in that regard are a gross equivocation,  a red herring meant to distract from the real agenda of those anti-multicultural right wing politicians (I am thinking of the Wilder Le Penn, and Bossi type now) set on bringing back good old nationalism, totalitarian regimes, even advocating secession from the countries in which they operate, as is the case with Umberto Bossi and the Lega Party in Italy.

The exploration will delve mostly with the philosophy of hermeneutics of a current modern philosopher: Gianni Vattimo whom I had the good fortune of having as a teacher at Yale University in the late seventies in a course he gave there on Giambattista Vico. I distinctly remember some face to face conversations I had with him where I tried to establish his philosophical pedigree, so to speak. It soon became apparent that he follows a philosophical line which goes directly from Vico to Nietzsche through Heidegger to Hans Georg Gadamar (as student of Heidegger like Strauss and an influential Vico scholar in his own right). In that genealogy Vattimo would be the philosophical great-grandson of Vico, the grandson of Nietzsche/Heidegger and the son of Gadamer. As was the case for his predecessors in the field of hermeneutics beginning with Vico, for Vattimo hermeneutics is much more than one branch of philosophy; it is the constitutive element of philosophy itself. It is well known in philosophical circles that hermeneutics acquired great importance in the 20th century, especially in “turn to language” as advocated by Heidegger and pioneered by Vico in the 18th century via The New Science.

After this rather lengthy but necessary preamble, we will begin with this crucial question: Is pluralism possible without relativism?  Some clear definitions may be needed at the outset. What do we mean by pluralism? Essentially this: the idea that there are multiple avenues to truth, multiple forms of truth, and multiple diverse (and potentially radically different) cultural life-world expressions operative at the same time and this forms are historical as well as geographical situated in time and space. The Strussians debunk this as historicism unconcerned with universals, but then some of them become self-declared experts in Far Eastern cultures to better stand apart from the unwashed ignorant oi polloi. They even go around speaking mandarin knowing full well that few can judge their knowledge of that language. Oh my, are we confused.

What do we mean by relativism? Basically, the belief that all of these various expressions are in some sense "equally true" and/or the notion that even if there were one right final truth to the universe we humans would never be able to ascertain it.  As Vico put it, man can only know with great certitude what he himself has made (languages, institutions, history) and to whose origins he can return, not what God and not him has made: Nature and the natural world. Even Plato who is considered the grandfather of absolutists of all persuasions, after recounting the myth of the cave exclaims: “only the gods know if this is true.”

Nevertheless those two views are conjoined so that relativism is portrayed as a sub-set of pluralism. But is that really the case? Pluralism may indeed be hallmark of postmodernism but not so relativism. Pluralism does not necessarily need to hold that all views are equal, as relativism does. Relativism takes the existence of plurality and then makes a decision that we cannot know how to judge between these various expressions of life and says that they are all equal and not to be compared and not to be judged.

Paradoxically, the statement that all views are equal is an absolute position, undermining relativism. The statement that all views are relative and in relation to one another is in fact  correct. The idea that all views are related to other views and that no view springs out of the ether of Mount Olympus or outside of time and space completely on its own does not mean all those views are equally valid. That is to say, post-postmodernism accepts the pluralism that is already there in the postmodern world and then seeks ways to integrate it. This approach is different than any attempt to reinforce a single narrative (i.e. the modern world) upon the various diverse forms of expression in existence. 

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Gianni Vattimo (1936- )

Enter Vattimo. His work is built around what he calls "weak thought". Weak thought refers to the station of thought and philosophy in the context of life after modernity--that is after the death of European colonialism, the 20th century's horrors, the rise of globalization, and the end of the Cold War. The opinions, views, and commitments we hold must necessarily be "weakened" in this age which Vico would place in the third era of extreme rationality. Vattimo, as I remember is quite fond of quoting this famous saying of Nietzsche: There are no facts only interpretations and this itself is an interpretation.

It should be pointed out that Gianni Vattimo is currently a Europarlamentarian thus furnishing us with a sterling example of the synthesis of theory and praxis. Indeed, one can count on one's finger tips good philosophers who are also good politicians and legislators nowadays. The philosopher kind is the exception which proves the rule that most politicians are after the expedient and the ephemeral, never mind the common good. The statesmen of the ilk of a Marcus Aurelius or Cicero remain quite rare.

Nietzsche called the coming dissolution of modernity (and he was a prophet in that respect), the "fabling of the world." The postmodern world is a fable; or in Vattimo's terms, weak thought, which is to say the kind of logic one sees in fables, myths and fairy tales, is now the “weak” reality of life. According to modern thought which begins with the Descartes and Enlightenment rationalism, life follows an objective system of progress and rationality. But for Nietzsche the modern world's self-view was not fact but interpretation. Vattimo insists in keeping both halves of that Nietzschean aphorism in mind: 1. There are no facts only interpretations and 2. Number 1 is itself an interpretation. The first point undercuts the modern view of pure objectivity. The second point prevents the postmodern insight concerning interpretation to become its own "fact."

Hermeneutics is nothing else but the study of meaning and interpretation. This was brought home to me in the Vico course I took under Vattimo at Yale University. Later, after writing a Ph.D. dissertation on Vico I ended up writing a book titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of Giambattista Vico (Mellen Press, 1993).  For Vattimo, what hermeneutics has revealed is a thoroughly pluralized world. He writes that we can no longer believe in a final objective metaphysical view of the universe—that is to say, a universe that perfectly describes the way things actually are.

Heidegger persuasively argued that the attempt by metaphysics to describe rationally all of life under a single heading (God, Being, Truth, etc.) has destroyed our ability to actually live in the world and that the manifestation of this trend in our day is science. For Heidegger this tendency to describe, control, and frame existence under the term of metaphysics led to the "oblivion of Being" or the human inability to live graciously in the world. Instead of first living in the mystery of existence, we seek to control, describe, and explain life and end up dehumanizing ourselves. 

For Heidegger as indeed for the anti-Cartesian Vico earlier, the best way to relate is through a kind of poetic-like relationship to the world. We let it arise and speak to us in its mysterious language instead of trying to impose upon life our categories of thought, for Nature is a shy maiden and will not be violated and dominated and observed naked. The truth too may be a shy maiden not to be used as a weapon of sort. This is what Heidegger describes as the post-metaphysical world.

Vattimo too argues that this trajectory arises from the early foundations of Christianity, that Christianity eventually destroys metaphysics. Atheism is another form of metaphysics for him. The post-metaphysical world, the post-modern world, the world that is an interpreted fable, is one in which there are a plurality of cultures, languages, and life-worlds enacted by various beings on the planet. No one of them can ever be final.  So how do we deal with plurality without falling into the trap of relativism? Vattimo nowhere says that all views are equal and, like Berlin, he never declares himself a relativist. For Vattimo the ethical implications of weak thought is charity. Love is better than the rejection of love and therefore not all views are equal and we must love each other in our differences.

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It is not hard to see that for this version of a postmodern worldview which recommends the “weak power” of love as a guiding ethical construct of a plural world would find unacceptable any theory that denies or represses plurality denying charity and forgiveness. Some of these world views that Vattimo would find flawed include religious fundamentalism, scientific materialism, and last but not least cultural relativism. Vattimo is concerned with bringing views, languages, and peoples at the periphery into the middle of the discourse.  In effect he has given an answer to the Straussian classical absolutists’ debunking modern thought. Pluralism can hold on to ethical values that have meaning, practice love and forgiveness across cultural differences, reject violence, intolerance and relativism.

Few would deny that most bloody wars and destructive conflicts have been brought about by absolutists with absolute strong metaphysical principles to defend, mostly men and mostly on the right of the political spectrum, men who like to raise their voice and like to bully and intimidate, if with nothing else with metaphysics as a rhetorical weapon, and could not bring themselves to accept the salutary Christian message that our salvation lies in “weak thought” to say it with Vattimo, i.e., in loving each other beyond our cultural differences and exercising tolerance and moderation in our social dealings.

It is not right even philosophically to proceed to slander and wield ad hominem arguments, to use truth as a weapon avoiding civil and convivial dialogues because one is absolutely sure that one has the “truth” on one’s side and the other should simply accept it. In today’s multicultural, multi-ethnic, gender and age neutral world, women seem to understand such a message much better than men in a position of leadership that go around preaching the gospel of hatred and intolerance and have declared multiculturalism and tolerance dead. To the contrary consensus and conversation is at the very beginning of philosophical dialogue and in any kind of decent society. Perhaps a feminist ethics for those men would be a desirable option.

For, what did Shakespeare say: Maturity is all. I suppose part of maturity at every level is the ability to live with ambiguity. The greater one's ability to live with ambiguity, the more mature one is. Most absolutists seem to be unable to accomplish such a feat; they need absolute certainty and are too clever and elitists by half for their own good. Vattimo's weak thought on the other hand, as a form of pluralism is quite mature, the way cultural relativism can never be. Cultural relativism recoils from the ambiguity of pluralism, of post-metaphysics and historicism taking refuge in the easy position of everything being equally right and so no view can ever be judged. Indeed one can do worse than becoming a pluralist and a multi-culturalist; one can become a relativist or an absolutist.

After recounting the myth of the cave, Plato exclaims “Whether it is true or not, only god knows.” After reading that statement one cannot but wonder if it ever gives pause to absolutists of various persuasion and whether or not there is a strong connection between absolutism and totalitarianism.

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2
Historicism, Multiculturalism and Relativism in Croce’s Philosophy:
a Revisiting

From the Introduction to Ernesto Paolozzi’s book The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom (An Ovi e-book as translated by Massimo Verdicchio and introduced in Ovi magazine by Emanuel L. Paparella in 2013)

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Ernesto Paolozzi’s Ovi e-book on Croce

It is an honor to have been asked by Professor Ernesto Paolozzi to write a brief introduction to this extraordinary book of his which valiantly attempts not only to recover and commemorate the memory of one of the foremost philosophical geniuses that Italy has given to the world out of the neglect he suffered after his death, but also to show how relevant he remains to our post-modern philosophical concerns.

He has put together a series of writing in honor of the 50th anniversary of the death of the great thinker Benedetto Croce that appeared in the prestigious Italian journal Libro Aperto. The contributions arrived from all over the world. Mine was a reevaluation of my own perception of Croce’s thought since the time I submitted a dissertation on Vico at Yale University. Indeed, Croce may be dead but he is far from been forgotten. If anything, it is his thought which has been misguidedly found passé and has consequently been neglected. Paolozzi, not unlike Tagliacozzo for Vico, is about to correct such an unfortunate mistake with this gem of a book on Croce’s philosophy of history and of freedom.

Some scholars have confused historicism with relativism and then have gone on to identify multiculturalism and diversity in the EU as cultural relativism, even nihilism, as the cultural cancer threatening the very identity of Western Civilization. To speak of modern historicism is to speak of post-metaphysical historicism. An uncritical return to the Enlightenment runs the risk of making us think of Vico and especially Croce as the culmination of the Enlightenment rather than the culmination of Italian Humanism. There is an unfortunate tendency to understand the central categories of both thinkers in Hegelian, still-metaphysical terms. Croce was fully abreast of the debates about history that brought Wilhelm Dilthey to the fore in Germany by the late nineteenth century. In fact, Croce's absolute historicism was a synthesis of the Hegelian sense of totality and the opposing emphasis on individuality in German historicism. Thus he came to characterize his historicism as absolute, in contrast to the individualizing romanticizing German version.

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Giambattista Vico (1668-1744)

Against the positivist insistence that history had to be a science if it was to count as knowledge, Croce would sustain that history is not a form of science, seeking to derive law-like generalizations with predictive power, but a form of art—art, however, understood idiosyncratically, as the mode of knowledge of particulars. His initial emphasis stemmed from a sense that reality is particular and thus in some sense historical. To assume that science gets at stable laws, categories, or essences was the height of metaphysics, Croce argued. Up to a point, of course, this argument paralleled that of many of Croce's contemporaries, from Bergson to the American pragmatists. But Croce was taking an extra step into a radical historicism; our ways of understanding the human world cannot be scientific because they are aspects of the ongoing creation, or coming to be, of something new, which endlessly makes necessary a renewed understanding even of what there already is.

Croce was also aware that the old questions about the whole or totality did not simply disappear; rather, they had to be confronted afresh. Enters Hegel whom Croce treats systematically in a famous essay on Hegel published in 1906 and to whom he returns repeatedly throughout his long career. For Croce, Hegel's way of positing the totality as a single history was indeed essential, but Croce anticipated in some way postmodernism in denying that anything like Hegel's grand master story was at work in that total history. As far as Croce is concerned Hegel's conception rested on unwarranted teleological assumptions. The challenge for Croce was to posit a post-Hegelian totality and to conceive that single history as radically open, without following some necessary deterministic dialectic, that is to say, without telos. Thus in Croce's synthesis, the totality becomes concrete and mundane, particular and forever incomplete. Croce had intuited that deterministic progressivism undermines man’s freedom and, as Kant had suggested, without freedom there is no ethics either.

It is now de rigueur in Vichian studies to point out Croce's alleged idealist deformation of Vico, a sort of subsuming of Vico to Hegel, based on the assumption that Croce was a Hegelian affording privilege to conceptual thought. That way of adapting Vico, it is argued, led him to miss some of what Vico had to say. I must frankly acknowledge that this line of thinking can indeed be found in my own dissertation on Vico at Yale University (1990) titled “The Paradox of Transcendence and Immanence in Vico’s concept of Providence.”

But my view of Croce has evolved since then. I now tend toward the view that Croce was not so much deforming Vico as pursuing one of the several directions Vico had opened up. Croce found his way beyond the dichotomy between Hegel and historicism by developing one possibility in the legacy of his Neapolitan predecessor. He claimed that only in our time, with the eclipse of metaphysics, could we begin to appreciate the most radical implications of Vico's thought. He may well have had it on target. It is this insight that makes Paolozzi’s book so relevant to our modern post-metaphysical concerns.

Croce fully understood the revolutionary import of Vico's "poetic" conception of thought, and his notion of the autonomy of fantasia. For Vico, imagination is the original, creative power of spirit; it does not simply afford images of something—something already here—but gives form to mind and life, to thinking and acting. But for Croce we are also forever making a kind of rational sense of the world, through a distinguishable cognitive faculty. Thus Croce posits an endless "circle" of related but distinguishable forms of the spirit, or facets of human being, so that neither imagination nor cognition can be conceived as higher. Rather, they complement each other; each is equally essential to human beings and to the endless coming to be of the world. And each is eternal.

Adapting Vico, Croce posits not telos, or even progress, but only neutral growth; what we do can only respond to—and grow upon—the resultant of what has been done before. In this sense, past actions endure even as something new results from what we do. The "reason" at work in history is nothing but this coherence, which is sufficient for there to be some particular world. For Croce, then, as for Vico, it was axiomatic that at every moment a world has resulted from history, a world open to human understanding; we can look back and see how it came to be this way and not some other way. Indeed, we perceive a species of necessity to its becoming. But this is simply to say that the history had to be this way for there to be this world and not some other, not that the history had to be this way in some metaphysical sense.

An Hegelian might well disagree with this deviation from Hegel, but what Croce was proposing was not trivial as some have misguidedly claimed; for it opened the way to a certain, relatively productive kind of post-metaphysical culture. Part of what Croce found in Vico was a way of positing the creativity and novelty that seemed essential to a world that was perpetually incomplete. If we ponder the endless growth of the world through human response, we conclude that what there is, is creative—and indeed may be conceived as a single creative spirit. The spirit does not operate apart from differentiated, historically specific human beings. Rather, it is nothing but us. We are all finite embodiments of the spirit, and as such, we all participate in the process through which a particular world endlessly comes to be. Each individual is creative, but our creativity must respond to the present resultant of history, or the total activity of the spirit so far, and we necessarily interact with others as we respond.

Thus the creation of reality in history is a supra-personal task, not of any one individual, but of the universal spirit, or Dio-creatore , immanent in all individuals. Here is Croce’s radical immanentism with which I took issue in my dissertation. I thought then, and still think now, that Croce, as a secular liberal with anti-clerical and even anti-religion sentiments, was ignoring the transcendent more Christian aspect of Vico’s concept of Providence, its transcendence, to be kept in tension with immanence; that is to say, the two poles belong together complementarly and can be distinguished but not separated.

Though his reliance on the term "spirit" breeds confusion, Croce's way of relating totality and individuality anticipated more recent efforts to do without the strong Cartesian self. In one sense, the Vichian Croce never embraced in the first place the assumptions that led to the "sovereign ego" so evident in an academic world so full of fanatical absolutist ego-maniacs, and the other aspects of modern philosophy that thinkers from Nietzsche to Rorty have taken such pains to reject. So Croce found it relatively easy to deny a self conceivable apart from the happening, or coming to be, of this particular world. The world at every moment results from the interaction of all our efforts to impose our own form, interpretation, or truth.

To be sure, this anti-Cartesian stance is already there in Vico prior to Croce. But for Croce, human response remains "moral" insofar as it stems from "care" for what the world becomes. The ethical impulse that Croce emphasized aims to free up human creativity—and thus converges in some way with the Nietzschean imperative of life enhancement via the quest for power. Crocean freedom is the freedom to respond creatively. Croce emphasized our continual striving for ever more freedom by overcoming obstacles to our creativity. It is indeed the quest for creativity rather than power. Notice that the second part of the title of this book is “the Duty of Freedom.”

Whereas Nietzsche and Heidegger ended up proposing extreme strategies in response to the loss of transcendence, Croce sought a kind of middle ground. And this has to be emphasized because it is an important difference. Croce was attempting to head off what he found to be the overreaction that threatened with the eclipse of metaphysics. So he held on to "history" to specify a way of conceiving both knowing and doing in a post-metaphysical world. We can know the world as history, and history is what we need to know; in fact, as Vico teaches, we may know with certitude only the world we ourselves make: the world of culture, while the natural world was made by God and only He can know it fully. Moreover, it is history that we make when we act, building onto every present moment, each of which is nothing but the resultant of all human actions so far. Which is to say, the proposition that man makes history is true but the proposition that history makes man is equally true.

Such notions on “originative thinking” seem bland and tame nowadays alongside those of Nietzsche and Heidegger, but in fact they are already there in Vico’s New Science, so it has been rather easy to miss Croce's radical originality. To some he was a systematic, neo-Hegelian philosopher; to others, primarily an aesthetician and literary critic; to others, a historian, moralist, and organizer of culture. Then, after World War II, Italian intellectuals began to consider him passé as they looked for fresh ideas after Fascism. Many embraced Antonio Gramsci's innovative form of Marxism as a way beyond the Crocean framework. Gramsci's critique of Croce in his posthumously published Prison Notebooks helped cement the notion that Croce invited a premium on abstract speculation or mere understanding as opposed to the praxis emphasized by Gramsci.

Indeed, Croce seemed to stand for a passive, conservative acceptance of whatever results from history. He began to be considered a retrograde humanist. In effect he was neglected. It was assumed that to come to terms with the likes of Heidegger one had to move as far from Croce as possible. Yet there was something anomalous about Croce's dramatic eclipse, a fact which is noted by René Wellek, the distinguished historian of literary criticism who spent most of his academic career at Yale University. Wellek was astonished at discovering that in movements considered influential since Croce's death, from Russian formalism and structuralism to hermeneutics and deconstruction, Croce is not referred to or quoted, even when he discusses the same problems and gives similar solutions as post-modern systems of philosophy do. Yet Croce, as far as Wellek is concerned, was arguably the most erudite and wide-ranging figure in the history of criticism; even greater than the 19th century literary critic Francesco De Sanctis.

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The great Italian Literary Critic Francesco De Sanctis

Even a cursory look, from the perspective that becomes possible with the waning of metaphysics, would suggest that Croce came to be neglected for dubious reasons—and that he might fruitfully be rediscovered and reconsidered in the 21st century. Unfortunately, by the 1960s Croce gets generally lumped with R. G. Collingwood, a misleading juxtaposition, because certain of Collingwood's best-known themes—reenactment, for example—are not really Crocean. Later on, once the focus of historiographical discussion shifts with the appearance of White's Metahistory in 1973, when Croce virtually disappears from the scene. Croce is then viewed as a neo-idealist system builder, operating within an essentially Hegelian framework. The relevancy of this book resides exactly in the corrective it makes to the unfortunate neglect of Croce after his death to show how relevant he remains to our post-modern concerns.

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Croce insisted all along that no philosophy, including his own, could be definitive. Indeed, his repeated attacks on system building and any pretense of definitive absolutistic philosophy are among the most striking features of his thought. In effect Croce was seeking, among other things, to understand the role philosophy plays in a world without foundations, essences, rules, or structures that philosophy had tried to establish since Plato and Aristotle. Sadly, all of this has been confused with relativism giving ammunition to anti-multiculturalists who preach intolerance toward alien non-Western cultures. But I repeat, Croce’s philosophy is not relativistic, far from it, but even great philosophers have fallen in that trap.

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Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945)

For example, Ernst Cassirer noted with disapproval in 1913 that Croce's whole doctrine, even while proclaiming logic as the basic science, in fact turns out to be an unlimited historical relativism in which change is studied so to speak for its own sake, in which no objective-logical enduring factors of any kind are discerned or set off. Cassirer understood that Croce's was no ordinary logic; it was rather a kind of giving in to history and historicism. But Cassirer fails to understand that for Croce, philosophy would always be with us, but it would always be ad hoc and provisional—hardly foundational. In effect Cassirer had mistaken historicism for relativism.

This book attempts to correct that kind of confusion. In fact it did not help much that Croce himself had portrayed himself as a radical historicist which was in turn mistaken for absolutism. Major Italian students of European historicism on both sides of the Atlantic pond, while embracing the German tradition of individualizing historicism, from Herder to Dilthey, have sadly failed to give Croce his due. Because Croce criticized that German tradition, these critics have found it easy to lump him with Hegel and the system builders of philosophical idealism.

So it is hardly surprising that Croce's thinking has proven elusive—and easily misconstrued. He has suffered the same neglect suffered by his great Neapolitan predecessor Vico who was finally discovered in the American academic world thanks to the efforts of Giorgio Tagliacozzo and the translation of The New Science into English by Bergin and Fish.

It is high time that Croce too, like Vico, be rediscovered and appreciated in his own right, as the other great modern Neapolitan philosophical genius that he is. This book will undoubtedly be a giant step in that recognition.

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3
An Essay on Multiculturalism: A Coming of Age Story
A Presentation by Abigail George

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A Multicultural Africa 

There are so many characters, costumes, disguises, personalities, possibilities, so many reflections, rainbows, (the origins of smoke and mirrors) when it comes to multiculturalism. Although we must never forget pain and grief (your reactor is my reactor, your wound is my wound, your scar tissue is my scar tissue) when it comes to multiculturalism. Culture truly is a gift. Now as humanity stands on the brink of climate change, postcards from the edge, Whitman’s blades of grass, every man, woman and child has their own self-portrait of their childhood whether it was traumatic or not. Your wound is the same wound I have. For example, Hemingway drank away his sorrows that was his drug. While mine is pharmaceuticals for bipolar (depression, mania and hypomania). Every season has a birthday. Sunlight breathes whispering sweetness in the world like orange marmalade into the gateways of the world at large, the material world and the possessions of both childhood and adulthood.

Culture has a lot to do with that. Culture has a lot to do with a child’s upbringing and the values that they are raised with. Cultures celebrate magnificently and sometimes with a history of violence having a difference of opinion in different ways. Anniversaries are celebrated differently, New Year celebrations, birthdays of children, Christmases and Easter in the Christian religion (I am using my own religion here). Every culture has their own divine invention when it comes to food. Culture teaches us to find the Noah in each of ourselves, the survival kit of building our own ark, of realising the Esther within us or the prophet, the Elijah, Daniel, Jimmy Swaggart or in other words defeating our Goliath. Our culture teaches us to find our own voice in the world. In time we find that there are illusions written on our physical body. For young girls and boys, adolescents who sometimes feel reduced to nothing if they experienced unquiet trauma at a young age.

Illusions like self-esteem, self-worth, the Sigmund Freud’s ego, superego, ID, and our body image. Those images are not real. Nothing really of substance. They are not worth anything really. What does culture mean to the youth in childhood, boyhood, the sister act, adolescence and adulthood? In the beginning the mind’s eye, psyche and intellect of the youth is like a Doris Lessing’s golden notebook. Everything that hurts, that wounds, that increases faith, loyalty that challenges, goals, dreams, desire, wants, needs, the gap that brings closure when facing loss, denial, death, defeatism is written in that golden notebook (the mind’s eye, psyche and intellect). And then the culture from childhood is still by some pure stroke of genius still there. It announces itself briefly in adolescence. Now other ideas are formulating themselves. Character and personality. Pride in one self not necessarily arrogance. Pride in one’s appearance or pride in one’s sporting prowess or pride in one’s academic achievements.

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It is the tendency of every man, woman and child of every race, of every faith not to embrace every other man, woman, child of every other race, of every other faith. Indeed, it is rare. Indeed, it only happens in exceptional circumstances (what is significant is the upbringing of the human life, the moral values of humanity, the keys to the lack of spiritual devotion to a deity, guru, god/gods or God and worship). And what of language? The language not of human love but of respect. Is it not language that divides us, that divides the cultures? It is respect that conquers self-pity, arrogance, narcissism, the ego and if that is what respect conquers then what does empathy conquer? In humanity, in this human world, the innerness of what Mary Oliver (American poet) called the ‘soft animal’ of the human body increasing love of self increases our purpose on earth, awareness of self and our sensibility and intuition not only of our own identity but we become sensitive (the more we lose that sense of ego, the material world around us, possessions) to other cultures.

When it comes to identity and culture there is no one identity and yet there is one moral code. Multiculturalism has changed the order of history, moral ambiguity, and cast a well-meaning phenomenological spell on the ancient doctrines of religion. The major spiritual trend that is forecasting globally right now is that we all carry pain within ourselves. We all carry a denial a love within ourselves. We call it many things. All cultures are experiencing this at this moment in history. To me a culture, any culture is extraordinary. The heritage of different cultures is a beautiful and dissociative wonderland grounded in the intelligence of heritage and indigenous knowledge systems. For example, a woman carries a purse and white quiet. A man carries a blank slate where his head should be. And now I come to children of different faiths and races. Children are the most vulnerable of all human life on earth. They are also the most.

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Children, they do not see prejudice as adults do whether they live in a ghost house (for example, an orphanage, juvenile detention centre, whether they are living with a foster family) or a house made out of a heart of gold (born with the proverbial golden spoon in their mouth, born into wealth, prosperity which will ultimately mean progress and success in their future lives if they follow a particular path, the straight and narrow path). There are primitive wonders in the most ancient of cultures in the world. The purpose of culture is for us to learn how truly different we are from each other. The homosexual, the transgendered, the lesbian, the family man, daughter, lover, feminist, father, son, mother and understand that in all these cultures and underground cultures these role players are found. It should be the task of every man, woman and child to taste worldly and rural experience without fear, without arrogance and with humility, and tolerance.

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For us to experience and not experiment with God’s interaction with humanity, with human life. We have a new ‘culture’ now. A new identity now it seems. It is called technology. We think words like ‘tech’ and ‘savvy’ are cute. It seems to mean that now pilgrimage, religion, mainstream religion, the church has come to an end, conquering the world, hitting the beach, Europe on a gap year (or has it really). It has come to mean for man, woman and child of different faiths and races, different cultures stopping engaging, interacting with the human and the animal world. How sad. This is what modern society has come to. Loneliness. Aloneness. Finding the innerness in a ‘pomegranate’ primordial soup whirlpool of solitude. Humanity is already spending far too much time alone with her thoughts. The paradigm shift in the world today is a negative, darkness visible, black dog of mental illness one. The black dog of depression, of mania, of hypomania and of addiction. Are we becoming counterfeit images?

What is happening to the third wave in feminism? Is feminism not a part of culture? What would happen if we did not have a Naomi Wolf? What would happen to young undergraduate women if they did not have Susan Sontag or Sylvia Plath? I watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some like It Hot, All about Eve. Marilyn Monroe went from extra, naïve ingénue to bankable Hollywood movie star. Films are part of our culture too. If films are violent is that not a reflection of the state of mind of the youth in society today. Gangs and mob justice. Pornography unveils the education of what a woman feels and thinks about her own physical body. Her sexuality. Her desire to be needed and wanted and loved. Cherished. I am talking about the sexual transaction here now in biblical terms. What does pornography really unveil? It has absolutely nothing to do with a Christian or any other woman of a different faith’s sexuality and sensuality. It is a voyage out. It is a voyage inwards into a man’s empire.

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The world when it comes to visual media wants you to reach out and touch a woman’s sexuality viscerally and that is point blank wrong. Just plain wrong. It is very, very difficult for me to imagine why women would want to be portrayed in that way. Some do it for money and there is always a power struggle. They either want to be dominated (by the director or their sexual partner/s) or I presume they feel that they have all the power, all the status in the world. For me, they are literally destination anywhere, stuck at that fork in the road with no place else to go. Music, (food as I mentioned before), literature, especially literature, charity, philanthropic work are all a part of our culture, my culture and I am proud of it. Of being a Coloured South African of Khoi descent. Whatever happened to the suffragist cities across the world in the different cultural groups and how did it begin to manifest itself? I believe I was a feminist even when I was a small child. Always under my father’s shadow not my mother’s apron strings.

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What would happen to the sensitive philosophy in the music of that genius Billy Joel that engenders itself in the spirit of my younger brother when he puts on that CD? There is even culture in the bittersweet squalor, burning in the rain, the comfort of strangers, blood orange of poverty, a bonhomie amongst these stalwarts. Every country in this, the well of this wide, crazy beautiful world of ours has their own cosmopolitan culture just like in the days of Jesus, the days of fishermen, the barley loaves, and fish. Culture is an adventure. Different cultures are meant to be experienced with a lot of bellyaching joy and sweetness and completely uninterrupted. No culture as much as they would like to be presumptuous and think it is far superior to the next culture. America is America. Africa is Africa. Australia is Australia. South America is South America and so forth. Do not let your culture wither away. Of course, in adolescence it does but do not let it wither away.

II
Creative Writing:
The Split Personalities of Elizabeth Donkin

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Elizabeth Donkin

I had a wood when I was a child. There was a forest near my childhood home. At night, before I would blow my lamp out I would stare out into that darkness that seemed to be stalking me. Forever stalking me, do you understand? It would suit my mood and I would will myself not to dream. To summon angels instead to surround my bed so I would not have bad dreams, does that make any sense to you? I would find myself in a field surrounded by farmers ploughing it. Totally ignoring me. A little girl. An English girl who would grow up to be a lady. I would not play with my boy cousins. They were too rough. My husband, my husband understands me gloriously, ingloriously. He makes me feel as if I am a real person. He is an Elijah. I would have cool thoughts when I was a child. Then the morning sun would delicately ripen everything inside my childhood bedroom. Soft, sweet gentle light. How I long for you and nurse? How I long for my nursery and for nursery food?

I am greedy for the flame of life in the veins of my physical body. I am in my quarters again. Rufane kissed me chastely. He kissed my forehead, my wrists and then I was in a trance, said I was so pale, asked me did I have anything to eat. He is like a child always wanting my attention, my approval for everything. I am a wife so I must give in and when he leaves me I am quite alone with my thoughts and I can already feel the heat, the genuine warmth of Africa rising in my blood. It is wonderful. Beautiful like ash settling on the ground after a bonfire and the air still warm after the fire has died down. This warmth, it is spreading throughout my body, my arms, my shoulders, my knees, legs and the chambers of my heart. It is a physical assault. It is a sacrifice on my part. I feel a burning sensation now when I have written down too much of the spasms that go throughout my body. Stress, the doctor said. Nothing to worry too much about. Nothing that traveling to a new world cannot cure.

Halt! I cannot stand the smell of this fish pie even though it reminds me of home. Now watch your salt intake. The doctor said not too little of this, not too much of that. Poor fish. Served up as grub for me. Their tails so innocent. I can imagine them flapping in water. Gills in need of air, nothing to quieten down that thirst. I need to eat. I know that and I feel so weak if I do not put anything past my lips but the food tastes bland. There is a fury in me when I feel so weak. I know I have faults and weaknesses now. I have limits but I do not think my poor, longsuffering husband can understand this. As a wife now, I have limits. When he burns my skin, that fabric, and that tapestry ever so gently I think he needs to be reminded of that fact. Not of my innocence but of my own self-control. He talks of my radiance when he is in that mood. He talks of my secret beauty. He talks of his guilt too of taking me away from the only home I have ever known but he also talks of a new life in Africa! Africa! The Cape.

Everything in moderation especially the diet and exercise. Blood needs food and nutrients. All of our departures from a modern world has been left behind. Perhaps we will have fruit trees. Whole orchards of them. Skies exposes all of us. The sunlight. The more we are exposed to it the more the flames of the sun burn us. It licks our skin. Sometimes in the morning, I like to walk from side to side of the boat knowing that everyone is watching me. Then I can eat my boiled egg and toast and think that the world is not so bad.

I forget what the doctor says sometimes. How many times a day must I rest, take to my bed, draw the curtains, watch what I eat? Do not eat too much protein? Do not eat much fatty and rich duck, as it will somehow end up in my blood? In a new land how will we live, how will I survive? All I know is London. All I know is London society. Now this ship. This boat sailing on the open water rocking from side to side making me feel queasy and sick to my stomach. There are good days when I can walk from one side of the ship to the next and I can believe in anything that Rufane is telling me. The children we will have. He has so much hope in him. So much love. Next to him, I am cumbersome. Next to me, he is majestic. It is as if overnight on this boat I have become very old, and frail. My bones are a frilled delicacy. I feel the cold. It is winter. It is a winter sun but my body longs for the moonlight too as much as I long for my husband Rufane smiling. I am afraid that I do not make him smile anymore.

I remember every word he said. Forget this place of weeping. It is a stranger to the heart. We will build empires of gold. She was tired of wondering if he had ever loved her at all. I am in awe of people who make a personal commitment to each other. It is becoming hazy. A new future beckons. I move silently toward it. Splendidly, avoiding the past neatly. I am dreaming. I am a child again. The cat is back on the garden wall. It is black. Sometimes it prances about, sometimes I find it sleeping, curled up in a foetal position, and sometimes it is purring when stroked between the ears. All loved up even after the ancient wisdom of eating. I pull her close to me. Unlike man, she is a friend. It is not easy to start over. All I wanted was a friend but I hear these voices all around me. The psychiatrist stared at me in the face with a sad, defeatist’s look anticipating the change in my mood and so I was cast off into the void. Sailing in the dark with every narcissistic impulse that the human condition has been afflicted with.

I am tragic. I am a tragedy in the works I am afraid. Half the time I am a scared cat. I thought that love was so noble, that it could heal anything and that the sanctity of marriage was ingenuous. They are only romanticised ideals of love. Nothing more. Nothing less. I will never leave this place. He has called it Port Elizabeth, South Africa. A part of me does not want to go but wants the order and routine of our old life. Elizabeth and Rufane Donkin invited to so and so’s soiree. I am a sleeping beauty and other stories. Ghost stories. You are so brave. A voice tells me. Whispers. Sings melodically or in the dead of night out of tune. I know that much is true. Damages.  Traffic. Keats is pure and part rebel. I am imagining life after twenty something and then I cannot imagine it. Feeling much more alive than I am already. There is the darkness and the light. One is more forgiving than the other is. People are moving in the dark. Stick figures behind trees. The air is wet.

Is it from my tears or from the spray of the water? While I was sleeping people were born into this universe. Souls. Souls! They did not have character traits yet.  They did not live in a cynical, jaded, insensitive, intellectually driven world yet. Their personal space not invaded yet. They were not creating havoc yet. Rufane is in a state when I am in an emotional state. Hysterics and tears. He leaves the room. We have our meals separately. He tries to understand, tries to placate me. He clings too much. He loves too much. Will this new land have wild bananas and exotic fruit? Of course, we will still have our tea, which is understood. It is a kind of red bush tea and is a very good remedy for all kind of aches and pains. So for my own sanity we have travelled a long way and come to a place where I will not have to have any kind of life here. I will just rest and rest and rest. Heaven! Paradise! Those doctors have said it would be good for me. A different lifestyle. My habits would change. We would eat as close to nature as possible.

Now I am the girl in love with the volcano. I no longer require myself as being part of the watershed system. I perform a brutal demonstration of an invisible people. Here humanity has no colour or a demonstration of an invisible people, which will leave you weak at the knees. I have made mistakes. I am not a perfect picture. You cannot always put a name to a face. I no longer keep it all locked away inside it. Some days the illness feel like a paperweight, other days I cannot see it like a shadow boxer caught between the bloodlines of the other player. A lesson in humility is learning never to let go. Is this a confession? Take me away from all of this, from all of here. I cannot live without you but she was afraid, deathly afraid of was that the illness would still be here in the morning. That the illness would want to possess her or own her. You don’t own me. Don’t forget that. Soon the illness would slip away into the shadows before the sun came up and that suited her. Female writers were never prosaic about love up to a point. Even in their prose.

If she were a beautiful woman she would be vain instead she is as plain as paper. About love, even in the prose, that art, they are tools of seduction, figures of women and men who are considered glorified contemporary masters of disguise. I need my poets as I need my potatoes. The way women would need their calcium supplement and self-defence classes in the twentieth century onwards. Yes, I am a ghost now and what of it. What if I haunt and go around in my old-fashioned clothes changing the temperature in the air. I do not have to anchor myself to anything. Gravity means nothing to me and neither does your personal space. Instead, it becomes something that I become attached to. There are no footsteps when I am around. The flux or void in my eyes no longer have windows to my soul fortunately in my case. I am Elizabeth Donkin. Rufane Donkin’s longsuffering wife. The acting-governor of the Cape’s wife. This pageant of emotion that is coursing through my veins. What is it? This empowering feeling. 

Watch how I lift the veil over the landscape of England behind me with her lush green hills. Where will I begin? With the ripples on the water, the tide, the moon and her light. What kind of light is this that reveals savages and natives to me, to us with their personal velocity? A husband and wife with their English mannerisms. There is a swelling of poetry inside my head. English poets. I am Elizabeth. There is a disharmony in the heat. I remain intrigued by them. The natives. They must think I am a pale goddess. It is a new day. It is a new land. If I lived to a ripe old age in another century then perhaps my name would have been Bessie after Bessie Head after South Africa had become a democracy and a much more integrated society. What would she do with him then, a husband? He would expect her to cook and clean for her. Hah! This Bessie would think to herself. Not this feminist but feminist is not even a word yet. We are in a century behind the times. It is the 1820’s. 

If my name was Emily and I was in a treatment centre for eating disorders perhaps this time of the evening I would be, lighting a cigarette and taking a long drag on it. Biting a nail absentmindedly. Willing myself not to cry for unfulfilled desires, children, happiness, the final test. Instead, I am a ghost with an English accent, an English ghost story. My airs and graces smelling like a rose garden. I dreamed that Rufane was perfect. He was in his own way. I was in mine. I am burdened in some ways. More than the general population. Tonight I am on that boat again. Eating in my quarters. Alone. In rhythmic despair. Dreaming of oceanic patterns on walls.

III
Creative Writing:
The Origins of the Khoi in the Eastern Cape

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Blood knot. The strange machine of talking about yourself in the third person.

In the black and white photograph, she appeared as any stranger would. Dazed, worldly, beautiful and dazzling. Sex never happened to her in her thirties, to the ballad of her shiny nerves. The silence was magnificent as any silence was as that time of year in South Africa. She repeats herself. Forgets if those words were part of an essay, prose, haiku or poetry. Rain. It is purity lit up. A symbol. The veil lifted up. Humanity lit up, lifted up in a way. As cold, as ice. Plums stored in the refrigerator. Whatever was stolen is this. Birdsong, footstomping on the stair by children scribbling in the air, the stars survival, the change in climate but you see she does not care two hoots. Does not think that anybody reads her work anyway.

Perhaps they think there is something heroic about me. Perhaps she thinks that there is something heroic about them. Real people in the world out there. What the universe out there does not seem to understand is that nobody takes her seriously enough. She slept the whole day until darkness fell outside over the world. Winter revisited me, she told herself. She should have been a mother. She should have been a wife. She should have been a lover. Here she is at home with the origins of the Khoi, with research on the origins of the Khoi. Slowly she is educating herself. All around her people are productive. Either doing the same thing she is doing. Research has become second nature to her.

The word ‘Khoi’ is not strange to her anymore. Instead, she sees all these beautiful strangers in the pages in front of her as her kin, her kind of folk. She belongs to their tribe. These lessons from their patchwork world are her lessons. She goes to the photocopying machine as makes photocopies of past lives to take home with her. Cancelling ghost lives, mapping them out, and mapping them out of the system. They are becoming more than book knowledge to her. They were human too. Their bodies damned, yet beautiful in their own strange. Now they were accessible. They were surreal to her. Dadaist surreal. Their physical body the texture of the sun. Songs have been written about them indirectly.

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Documentaries have been made about them directly. She wanted to remember them forever picture pretty. Faces with their blurred lines. Blurred like mountains. Did they ever find their manna in the valleys in which they lived, she wondered to herself. She live in a city of bridges with her elderly mama and papa in a house big enough for familial supporters. A grown up child with doll features. Safe from drowning but not from sparks, not from animal skin collections, from otherworldly, tender poetry, picket fences.

Tap root. The extraordinary machine of talking about yourself in the first person.

The night angels came my window I knew they came for a reason. There was a time I walked down different streets in Johannesburg. I surveyed alleyways. I needed to believe in something. Risk. Change of heart. Change of mind. I really needed to believe in suburbia again. Out of sight. Out of mind. I needed it badly like the wife who needs intimacy in the early hours of the width of a thread of the morning. Like the wife who needs to communicate to her husband that she needs her bones to be protected from sadness, the glaring future of incompatibility.

Society wants you to work for a living. Society wants you to work yourself into a depression, into stress, into having that sunny road, having those kids, going to the dog park on weekends with your husband, having Indian friends who will make you curries and biryani, hide that single malt whisky at the bottom of your chest of drawers, having those Muslim friends who will bring you samosas’. Society does not want you to believe in angels. A moveable feast. That you can be a writer, be a poet, be anything that you want to be. They want you to earn minimum wage before you start climbing the ladder, getting that promotion, running marathons at the weekend, treating your pets as if they were your children.

They want you to flip burgers before you become a professor. They want men to marry an intelligent woman who is thoughtful, affectionate, warm, loving, and sincere. In other words, society wants you to marry your mother except a sexier version of your mother. A woman you can take to bed. Practise the Kama Sutra with because that will make you a man, that and pornography. A poet will tell you that illness and disability are beautiful strangers. Blood is thicker than water. They want you to remember a myriad of things. When aunts and uncles hurt you. When strangers comforted and loved you.

When you ate watermelon in childhood, gravitated towards peaches, adored pears for their shape, their sweet fruit, and when the self-portrait of their juice was like a novel discovery like aloe sap. A beautiful landscape was always useless to me unless it contained people, a sunrise, or sunset. I had to observe something in the wilderness history of it all. Study minutia.

The night angels came to my window. Angels without wings. The fractured wind wed birdsongs. Driftwood spilled out of purple seawater. My bones live when I swim. Swimming gives me some relief from the daily grind of work, of love, of play, of fun, of lovemaking, of gardening in the dirt, of planting. The street is filled with chameleons with their shark teeth, with their colours of the rainbow, with their tough skin. Their skin as tough as a crocodile’s, haunting storytelling, enormous giants, grotesque freaks. Freaks whose faces are covered with fur. Female sword swallowers in a circus. Dwarves. A little person. Little people.

People with hearts of gold. People with hearts period. Their visions are not handmade and visions are not crafted by hands, indecisiveness, and choice but rather by a god. What god do you worship? What god do you praise? The god that you choose to believe in. The god that you grant access to, passage to your dreams and your thoughts. Your successes and your failures. Your exits. You inside and out. What does the physical illustrate if not the beauty of mankind, all of the minor angles and the major distributions of humanity’s ins and outs, struggles to come to terms with bereavement, denial, grief, and singularly loss?

In the search of cold, of winter guests (rotting leaves in the gutter, wet paint, black leaves, Portland, Oregon) invited, uninvited entries in journals. In the end what matters in this world? Sickness. Does it matter? Is there logic in losing someone that you love to a terminal illness? Is there logic in domestic science, in domesticity, in the domestic goddess who dazzles with her recipes, her grocery list, her exploding trolley in the supermarket, her pathetic frustration at not finding exactly what she wants if it happens to be fish fingers or pineapple juice. I am a whale because of fish fingers. Look at me. My fried chicken thighs. I make circles on my plate.

This is what the maelstrom of chaos and disorder of illness can do to you. You can crack open the peanut butter jar in the early hours of the morning. It is a source of loneliness, isolation beckoning. It says, hey there. I really missed you.

People matter. Earth matters. Chilled earth. Bulbs. Butterflies up in flames. There is something poignant about dandelions. Real lions. Images and frames. Shooting through the lens. I mean that is understood.

There is the light exploding into perspective like Mrs Dalloway, our mother in the kitchen after church in her Sunday best. The chicken is far away from all of us now. It has its own memories of loneliness and lust. Its white meat has begun to resonate in the oven. Make waves.  We will be going to the beach in the afternoon. If we are good, we will get ice cream.

I remember the sale on the breeze. Its gift in my hair.  The beautifully understated smell of salt. Fragments of winter. In all of its unstable geometries. There is a journal there. There is a winter journal there. Are you there God listening or are you having conversations with a prophet with their garden state of mind?

Life is a mystery to me. It yields a kaleidoscope, a mountain, a meditation of going up the mountain. My brother does not know anything about life or sex yet. I do not see the sexual impulse, the sex drive shining in his eyes yet. I wish I had someone to talk to about this. I kissed Oupa’s cheek when he was in the intensive care unit at the hospital. A kiss for the dying. People leave me alone. Why do people leave me alone? It is a postcard. It haunts me.

I think of Ouma’s kitchen and how I could not get enough of her potatoes. Television could not give me enough introductions to being raised on Hollywood squalor and rubbish. I hardly watched the documentaries with their green hope a-plenty, and an abundance of green feasts in the jungles where pygmies lived.

Key in pocket after school I would open my front door to an empty house and pretend I was a runaway or an orphan. Does God Answer Prayer? I returned to the book of miracles, Noah’s Ark and Jonah’s whale, Daniel in the lion’s den. Were they not ordinary people like the diary of my family life?

In the lonely afternoons bored with the dialogue in soaps, the prophets kept me company. The impressive Jesus, Moses in the wilderness, the burning bush, Aaron and Miriam. They were my manna. As long as there were glaciers, there would always be urban cowboys, and kites on the other side of the world.

I unearthed scholars of trivia, lunches of blood of red meat and potatoes, the aftermath of the forced removals during apartheid South Africa that was what my father the author called the ballad of South End. Of course, there was mental illness on my father’s side of the family, alcoholism, breast cancer, fertility problems on the side of my mother’s.

There are ordinary people in the slum of Helenvale. There are ambitious girls who are also promiscuous. Please help.  They call that intimacy when they are in a room with an older man with his gifts of fine wine, expensive chocolates, perfume. With a sigh, she lays sleepless in his arms.

He says to her. This is my inner vision of you. You are a lotus flower. Thirst. Primitive. A virgin. An innocent. I will teach you everything I know. You will leave the lamentations of this world far behind from this zero point. The survival kit for mental illness is not therapy it is water. It is when sleep cometh. He encouraged her to keep a journal.

When bad mothers happen, it is as if you are eating a bitter orange. Pretend that the interior of the pomegranate is mental illness in the wards of Elizabeth Donkin. Pretend it is Biko, Hani, Julius Malema, and Daddy. Tell yourself. Welcome to Sarajevo. Think of water. Think of hours, water in wild places and when I make love to you think of the land of milk and honey.

Who is the laughing carcass? Whatever happened to the ballad of Dulcie September? Has she gone the way of the flight of dandelions, swans and geese gliding through the air, when women had wings? Men know how to make money (that is their shot to the big time). Women know how to nurture and develop life skills in their children (that is the width of their thread).

I was a slave to the sophistication of art, the heritage beyond the dream, my hot tea, and my slices of bread and butter. The external world. Did that make me bitter, torment me? There was the vision and the goal. Nobody knows my inner life of eating bread and cake in the depths of the night. In the early hours of the morning, I think of Sarajevo and Susan Sontag.

The thing about Sylvia Plath is she was luminous. She was America’s gift to the world. While I garden, I think of the land that borders on God. Rilke’s world.

Piggy fish. Look at them. They are so handsome. Hitched to the ocean. Licked clean by salt.

If I did not know any better do, they burn away even under moonlight. Their bouquet of scales, of gills. Carried from one continent to the next. Caught by an angler in Africa. Served for dinner in America. The words ‘prawn cocktail’.  Do they mean anything to you? On the other hand is it just a portrait of nothing. They remind me of the pomp and the ceremony of all the kings and queens of our kindergarten days. Maybe it is time that we shed the pretty. Sat on those thrones.

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 END  OF 45th SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (12/02/2015)

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Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

16th Meeting - 17th Meeting - 18th Meeting - 19th Meeting - 20th Meeting - 21st Meeting -

22nd Meeting -23rd Meeting - 24th Meeting - 25th Meeting - 26th Meeting - 27th Meeting -

28th Meeting -29th Meeting - 30th Meeting - 31st Meeting - 32nd Meeting - 33rd Meeting -

34th Meeting -35th Meeting - 36th Meeting - 37th Meeting - 38th Meeting - 39th Meeting -

40th Meeting -41st Meeting - 42nd Meeting - 43rd Meeting - 44th Meeting - 45th Meeting -

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